Larry Brown Makes Playing Time Into a Bigger Problem Than It Is; Gerald Henderson Is Losing Out

As I've tried to say before and perhaps have not stated quite so directly, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer does yeoman's work covering the Bobcats beat. We should consider ourselves lucky to have a beat reporter who also takes the time to offer opinion columns, long and short, in blog format. It allows us to understand where he's coming from in everything that he writes, including game recaps and off-day articles. Unfortunately, the most frustrating thing about Bonnell's coverage is that he lauds Larry Brown's work to the point of whitewashing his clear and obvious faults and contradictions.

For instance, earlier today, I posted a FanShot linking to an Observer piece by another writer that discussed Gerald Henderson's lack of playing time. What was Brown's comment?

 

"We have such an imbalance with the number of guards we have," Brown said, listing six players who can play on the perimeter. I've been begging (general manager) Rod (Higgins) to do something about it.

"I've been kicking myself about not sending (Henderson) to the (developmental) league so he would at least get to play. Then if we could get this roster sorted out, he could come back in here and play."

So, we've established that Larry Brown thinks there's simply a crush for minutes in his back court such that the rookie can't get any time to play. Henderson has gotten fewer minutes than luminaries such as A.J. Price, Dante Cunningham, Jodie Meeks, and Demarre Carroll because there are only so many minutes for Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, Stephen Jackson, and Flip Murray.

By itself, that's fine. But then what of Bonnell's blog post from later in the day, in which Brown says the following?

"My biggest concern is the amount of minutes we've been playing guys. When you look that we've got a back-to-back (Friday and Saturday) and then a short turnaround to a Monday (afternoon) game, we've got to utilize our bench a little bit more. Not in the backcourt -- our backcourt is deep and very effective -- but we've got to get some other people playing.''

He seemingly covers himself by saying the back court is deep, but who is he talking about when he says the minutes load is too high? He has to be talking about Gerald Wallace, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw, because nobody else is taking on an unusual minutes load.

Jackson plays the back court. Jackson also plays the front court, as a small forward, and he's played nominal power forward before. In fact, his positional flexibility, and Wallace's, and Diaw's, is one of the things that makes this Bobcats team quirky and flexible, in a good way. It means you can give starters their full complement of minutes and give different role players minutes by moving guys around from position to position. Diaw slides from power forward to center. Crash moves from small forward to power forward. Jax can play everywhere from point guard (just a few minutes at a time) to shooting guard to small forward to power forward, depending on the situation. It's a beautiful tool to have at our disposal.

If you're going to sit Jackson another six minutes per game to get him down to 35 per, instead of 41, and Gerald another seven minutes per game to get him down to 35 per, then that's 13 minutes of playing time that open up. Who should get them? Ideally, both Henderson and Derrick Brown would split that playing time, in some fashion.

But in addition to that, how many minutes per game does Ronald Murray really need? We're not talking about crunch time. In crunch time, mathematically the most important minutes of the game, our small lineup with Felton, Flip, Jax, Crash, and Diaw is still probably our best bet. ( That's even after Tyson Chandler returns. Augustin might work his way in instead of Flip, but whatever.) But does Flip need the 23 minutes per game he's been getting recently? Take away six or seven of his minutes from the first three and a half quarters.

That opens up about 20 total minutes to split between Henderson and Brown. Because Brown can play small forward or power forward, that's additional flexibility. He can play alongside Chandler and Diaw when Wallace is out, and can slide over to power forward when Tyson or Boris need a rest and Wallace returns. Jackson's ability to play anywhere also allows Henderson to play alongside either Crash 'n Jax, neither, or both.

I'm asking for 10 minutes each, per night, and LB can still keep one or two of his starters on the floor at all times. This shouldn't be difficult.

Finally, I'm giving the last word to Ourdaywillcome, who predicts a nightmare scenario for the end of the season, in which we get to the playoffs, but our method of getting there prevents anything positive from happening once we're in the tournament, and hearkens back to my question of what LB's end game is:

It’s actually amazing that [Wallace and Jackson] have held up as long as they have. There’s a law of averages that’s going to come into play as the season progresses. The nightmare I have is that they’ll last right up until we’re in solid playoff position and then one or both will go down and we’ll hit the post season with a worse team than the one that just missed the playoffs last season.

If and when it does happen we’re going to hear LB loudly claiming innocence. He’ll tell the media that he begged the Front Office to give him some big man relief through the trade market. On the one hand, he’ll have a point. Most of the playoff contenders are in the process of shopping the D league and the lower echelon teams of the league to bolster their benches and find rest for their starters. Team executives can’t claim ignorance as an excuse because even the most ignorant pro ball fan knows how it’s supposed to be done and rumor has it that Michael Jordan knows a thing or two about post-season basketball.

But on the other hand, there are definite things that the coach can and should be doing that Brown is simply ignoring. When we are playing the teams that are supposedly beneath us now there is no excuse whatsoever for playing Jax N Crash 42+ minutes or for playing Felton 35+. No… excuse… at… all. Even if Henderson is struggling to learn the pro game and is slow developing a mid-range jumper, Derrick Brown has not displayed any of those problems. He could easily sub in for 12-15 minutes and give first Jax and then Wallace a chance to sit down somewhere other than the locker room. You can tell where those two men’s seats are on the Bobcats bench. They’re the only ones with dust on them from disuse.

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